Unworthiness, and the Prodigal Who Played by the Rules

There were interesting discussions at my church’s Bible study last night.  We talked about such topics as the challenges and difficulties in interpreting the Bible, people who have been released from mental institutions who cannot get on their feet, and the challenges of dealing with hospital bureaucracies.  “You almost have to be your own advocate in these hospitals,” someone astutely said.  Of course, that’s not easy for everyone!  There seemed to be a humility and a compassion in the group’s discussions last night.  That, in my opinion, is better than its discussions about why we need to put prayer in school!

I’d like to highlight two issues from last night’s Bible study.  First of all, there was a lot of emphasis on our unworthiness.  We read the story of the blind man who cried out to Jesus for mercy, and Michael Card was saying that mercy is someone giving us what we do not deserve.  This doesn’t particularly resonate with me, to tell you the truth.  I can understand that I should not have a huge sense of entitlement, since that will lead to disappointments, and it will get on people’s nerves as well.  I also recognize that I have my share of flaws.  But why should I say that the blind man did not deserve to be healed?  He’s a human being created in God’s image.  Doesn’t he deserve a whole life?  Don’t all of us?  I just have problems with the standard Christian spiel that we should all be so grateful that God has not snuffed us out for our sins.  While I realize that I have my moral flaws, I have a hard time seeing myself as some kind of worm, who should be happy with whatever table scraps God decides to give me.  Then again, come to think of it, there are a few times when I do feel like a worm, but that is when I have done something that I regret, not because I’m trying to brainwash myself to accept some theological spiel or script.

Second, the workbook asked us which son we identify with in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son: the younger brother, who went out and spent all his inheritance money on fun, then humbly returned to his father; or the older brother, who stayed behind with his father and followed all the rules, and was resentful when his father welcomed back the prodigal son and threw the prodigal son a party.  To be honest, I have a hard time putting myself in either box.  I wasn’t a wild kid, but I played by the rules.  I did well in school, read my Bible, etc.  But I can’t go to the other extreme and paint my life as one of perfect rectitude, so, while I can understand the older brother’s reaction, I don’t exactly resent those who made bad decisions and are trying to get their lives in order.  I suppose that I characterize myself as one who played by the rules, and yet, as I look back, even then I had problems, some of which I wasn’t even aware were problems.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Church, Luke, Religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.